John Walker is one of the small team over at RockPaperShotgun, and he has throughly detailed the possible advantages and heavy disadvantages of Blizzard’s choices regarding DRM for the upcoming Diablo III. It was announced recently that the game would feature an “online leash” which would require that players have an internet connection even during single player.
Walker begins by noting that Blizzard’s DRM decision is not entirely based around avoiding piracy, like other enraging DRM decisions in recent memory, as it can contain potential perks for players like online leaderboard ranking, auction house activity, and a fluid co-op experience. His concern rests with the potential that Blizzard is forgetting about those that may simply want to play the game solo.
Speaking from personal experience with the beta, Walker notes that the “always-on DRM makes this the most remarkably annoying process.” He cites multiple problems with server drops and connection hiccups, which ceased the action in confounding ways as it attempted to re-establish. These troubles have led to situations like arrows that won’t shoot and phantom enemies which briefly leave the player in what Walker calls “a ghost of the game”. The game went as far as logging him out after being briefly idle, which removed a huge chunk of progress.
It is a beta, of course, and technical issues like server connectivity are to be forgiven. But, it is a clear indication that Blizzard is embedding the DRM quite deep throughout the game. Walker offers a solution, as well, which is simply to allow the alternative for an entirely offline character. Which is an option that currently doesn’t exist.
Despite the various issues taken with the online components – which are so troubling that Walker goes as far as to call the game “a broken product” – the specific point is made in conclusion that “it’s all the more maddening in what’s, so far, an exceptionally good game.”